Cold Walking, Calm Mind

Three things I like about riding a bike are (1) it allows me to get exercise while I am doing something useful (like getting to work or going to the store), (2) on hot days I generate my own cooling wind, and (3) it calms my mind.

I didn’t have anywhere I needed to go today and it was 21 degrees outside so a cooling wind was not desirable, but after four days of inactivity I had to get outside and do something physical. I laced up my hiking shoes and went for a long walk.

I was bundled up with a wool cap and neck gaiter to cover my head. I wore a t-shirt (my 2014 50 States Ride shirt), a polyester fleece, and a leather jacket. My hands were covered in mittens. My legs, which were going to do most of the work, were clad in light weight blue jeans. I wore wool socks in my hiking shoes.

I was cold. It was a bit windy. I started trucking. Within a half mile I was perfectly comfortable. Within a half mile my body wanted to run. The orthotics in my shoes made it feel like I was being propelled down the street. Even so, I resisted the urge. Running would almost certainly mess up my gimpy lower back.

There’s one thing you can say about the suburbs and you can’t sugarcoat it: suburbs are boring, especially when nobody is out and about. I was walking for 2 hours and saw one person outside who was not in a car. One.

Another thing you can say about suburbs like the Fort Hunt area of Fairfax County where I live is the good folks at VDOT have absolutely no clue about pedestrians. In someplaces there is a concrete sidewalk. In others there is an asphalt path, typically bulging with tree roots. In others still the sidewalk disappears. And sometimes when the sidewalk disappears there is no shoulder to walk on. That means you get to walk in the road on busy, narrow streets like Fort Hunt Road. VDOT it seems is all about cars.

I had nowhere to go and didn’t need to get there at any particular time. I tried my best not to think about work or people or anything in particular. Many years ago when I was a runner, this was what completely turned me on about running. I could just turn off the chatter in my head and go on autopilot. When I was in really good shape, I’d do what I called run from the hips. This meant that my stride was automatic, almost robotic, effortless. When you get to this point running becomes moving meditation. It’s prettty awesome.

So that’s what I was striving for. I can’t say I was successful. You can’t really zone out when you’re worried about getting run over by a Subaru. But I tried.

My speed slowed a bit after three miles. I started running over work stuff in my head. After about a half mile of that I refocused on not focusing (if that makes any sense). I made my way to a deli and bought lunch to go. Then I trucked the rest of the way home. When I arrived the thermometer said it was 26 degrees. Bangor tanning weather.

It wasn’t as good as a walk in the woods or a bike ride on country roads on a sunny summer day, but it served it’s purpose. It got my outside. I broke a sweat. I calmed my mind.

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